The Lions come into the Metrodome to finish off what is perhaps an even more discouraging season. Having lost five of their last six games, they were eliminated from the playoffs following their overtime loss to the Giants at home last week.
For the Vikings, they have made the most of their second chances. The first time through the NFC North they were 0-3 against the Lions, Bears and Packers, losing by an average score of 36-28. The second time around against division opponents, they have played much better. They tied the Packers 26-26 in Week 12 at Lambeau Field and beat the Bears in Week 13 at home 23-20 in overtime.
If the trend continues, the Vikings should be good for their fifth win of the season. They might have a huge advantage over the Lions. The Vikings have been playing meaningless games for most of the season, while the Lions were just knocked out of the division race just last week.
It also looks like a game between two lame-duck coaches, as both Leslie Frazier and Jim Schwartz are both expected to be fired after the season. In fact, according to a report from MLive, Schwartz was almost fired last season.
For most of the season, this has been a three-team battle for the division lead. The Lions' loss to the New York Giants last week finally eliminated them from the mix, leaving the division to be decided by the longest-standing rivalry in the NFL.
The game between the Packers and Bears is just what the NFL was hoping for when they scheduled divisional games for Week 17. The winner takes the NFC North and earns a playoff berth.
|Team||Wins||Losses||Ties||Week 17 Opponent|
|Chicago Bears||8||7||0||vs. Packers|
|Green Bay Packers||7||7||1||@ Bears|
|Detroit Lions||7||8||0||@ Vikings|
|Minnesota Vikings||4||10||1||vs. Lions|
Pro Football Reference
With the winner of the division finishing with no more than nine wins, the NFC North is one of the weakest divisions in the NFL.
It has been a tough year for the Vikings. It would be great if their injury report correlated to the less-than-stellar performance on the field, but a 1-3 start to open the season indicates otherwise.
The Vikings close out the season without their top two cornerbacks and their top-two tight ends. They have started games with their third-string running back (Matt Asiata) and with a starting middle linebacker who had been waived only a couple of weeks earlier (Audie Cole).
|Greg Childs||WR||knee||on the PUP list||15|
|Zach Line||FB||knee||Injured Reserve||12|
|Desmond Bishop||LB||knee||Injured Reserve||11|
|Kyle Rudolph||TE||foot||Injured Reserve||7|
|Josh Robinson||CB||chest||Injured Reserve||5|
|John Carlson||TE||concussion||Injured Reserve||2|
Pro Football Reference / Vikings.com
Out of necessity, the Vikings have promoted six players—some of them multiple times—from the practice squad to the active roster. With a limit of eight players, the Vikings' practice squad has had as much turnover as the starting quarterback position.
What Must Improve
The easy answer as to what must improve for the Minnesota Vikings is everything—but what needs to improve the most is the Vikings' pass defense.
Statistically, they have one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
|Passing yards allowed||294.3 yd/game||32nd|
|Passing TD allowed||36||32nd|
|Rushing yards allowed||113.7||18th|
Stat Milk / NFL.com
This offseason, the Vikings will need to find answers at cornerback, linebacker and defensive end. As pointed out above, injuries have decimated the cornerback position, but age seems to have taken its toll on the defensive line.
The Vikings need to find some youth and depth this offseason for the defense.
Defensive end Jared Allen and defensive tackles Kevin Williams, both set to be free agents after Sunday's game against Detroit, will be 32 and 34 next season, respectively. Linebacker Chad Greenway will turn 31.
For Sunday's season finale against the Lions, the Vikings will need to find a way to contain wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who is second in the NFL with 1,492 receiving yards.
They will also need to find a way to limit the production of running back Reggie Bush, who had 191 combined yards against the Vikings in Week 1. He finished with 90 rushing yards on 21 carries and 101 receiving yards on four catches.
Having a plan to defend the screen pass, would go a long way to accomplishing that.